Monday morning started off with Oklahoma officially announcing the dismissal of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, news that started to break Sunday evening. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley has promoted assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill to the role of defensive coordinator for the remainder of the 2018 season. Defensive specialist Bob Diaco will take on the role of outside linebackers coach.
“I have great respect for Mike,” Riley said in a released statement. “He’s a quality football coach, great man and a close friend. It became time for a change in our program and that happens sometimes in football, but we cannot lose sight of the accomplishments Mike had at Oklahoma. He was responsible for a lot of success and deserves the gratitude of everyone associated with Sooner football, not only for his role in the winning, but for coaching with integrity.”
McNeill has previous defensive coordinator experience with UNLV, Fresno State, Texas Tech. Diaco is also a former defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Notre Dame under Brian Kelly as well as Nebraska.
“Ruffin has an impressive résumé,” Riley said. “That’s why I wanted him on our staff in the first place. I have confidence in his knowledge and leadership. Bob has a lot of experience in very good programs and also has a list of accomplishments that will help him step in and make an immediate impact. We are fortunate to have these men in our program. They’ll be ready to get to work in new roles right away.”
Stoops was fired after this weekend’s loss to Texas, a 48-45 setback in the Red River Rivalry that saw Oklahoma’s defense once again continue to struggle to get a hold of the game. Although Oklahoma has an offense that is more than capable of leading the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, Oklahoma’s biggest shortcomings in recent years seem to come back to defensive issues, including last season’s regular-season loss to Iowa State and the Rose Bowl playoff loss to Georgia.
Stoops, of course, was one of many assistant coaches who remained in the Oklahoma coaching staff during a head coaching transition last year when Mike’s brother Bob Stoops suddenly retired and handed the program over to Riley. Once Bob Stoops retired, it was fair to wonder just how long Riley would stand by the defensive coordinator that has commonly been a target for criticism when things go wrong for the Sooners.
Following a second straight SEC East Division championship in just its third year in the SEC, Missouri has extended the contract of head coach Gary Pinkel and rewarded him with a nice bump in pay. Pinkel’s contract has been extended through 2021 with a guaranteed salary of $4.02 million.
The investment in Pinkel seems to have been a long time coming, as Pinkel may have exceeded many expectations for Missouri since making the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC.
Pinkel was hired by Missouri in 2001 after a successful stint at Toledo. Since arriving in Columbia, Pinkel is 113-66 with six bowl victories, including three in the last four seasons. After going 5-7 in Missouri’s first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12, Pinkel coached Missouri to two consecutive SEC East Division championships and appearances in the SEC Championship Game.
If you are wondering how many coaches are left in the SEC not receiving $4 million, the number is apparently down to four; Jim McElwain (Florida), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Mike Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee).
When LSU saw John Chavis leave the Tigers to take on the role of defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, a high-profile vacancy opened up at the SEC program in Baton Rouge. A former SEC defensive coordinator has now been connected as a possible target; Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
Shoop, who left Vanderbilt for Penn State when James Franklin was hired by the Nittany Lions, will interview “soon” for the job at LSU according to a report published by The Advocate, citing an anonymous source close to the coaching search. The report goes on to suggest Shoop has some enthusiasm about the possibility of a return to the SEC.
Penn State’s bright spot this season was Shoop’s defense. While the offense may have been hampered by the impact of recruiting restrictions under NCAA sanctions, the defense more often than not was the reason Penn State even managed to play in a bowl game in 2014. Penn State ranked seventh in the nation in defensive scoring and second in total defense this season. In a division that has seen offenses start to open things up, LSU could stand to see improvement on the defensive side of the football, although LSU’s defensive numbers were right in the same territory as Pen State this season in those two particular stats.
LSU has also reportedly shown interest in Oklahoma’s Mike Stoops, who has just been demoted on the staff. LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley and Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele have also been mentioned as potential candidates for the job at LSU.
Oklahoma is without one more member of the Class fo 2014 this summer. Safety Vontre McQuinnie has been officially removed from the football roster this week, but he still plans on arriving on Oklahoma’s campus in the future.
According to The Oklahoman, McQuinnie had planned to enroll in a junior college and transfer to Oklahoma at the completion of his summer courses. That plan may be on hold as well, but time will tell how this all plays out. Tulsa World, first to report the roster news with a confirmation from Oklahoma’s athletics department, says McQuinnie never arrived in Norman this summer, opting to enroll at a community college to focus on grades. McQuinnie is the second member of Oklahoma’s Class of 2014 not to make it to the fall, with offensive lineman Natrell Curtis choosing to enroll at a community college in Arizona. Curtis was a three-star lineman according to Rivals.com.
McQuinnie was a two-star prospect at safety according to Rivals.com. Recruiting by Mike Stoops, McQuinnie chose the Sooners over offers from SMU and Iowa.
Oklahoma assistant coaches were reported by the school to the NCAA for a handful of secondary violations involving text messages and improper phone calls dating back to February 2012.
Former tight ends coach Bruce Kittle (fired in February 2013) was reported for sending a congratulatory text to a player that had signed with the Sooners, sending a recruit contact information for another recruit (he intended to send that info to assistant coach Josh Heupel), and pocket-dialing a recruit a day after receiving an impermissible text from the recruit. Pocket-dialing has happened to us all, but when you are an assistant football coach you can never be too careful! Kittle was also reported for a phone call to a recruit who was a junior, although Kittle tried to suggest this was another accidental pocket-dial. The length of the phone call did not help his cause.
Running backs coach Cale Gundy was also reported for congratulatory text messages to a player who signed with Oklahoma. Former defensive line coach Jackie Shipp (also fired February 2013) texted a junior high school player and sent multiple texts to a recruit before that player had submitted his commitment forms to the school. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was reported for returning a phone call and for texting a recruit during the week of an official visit. Linebacker coach Tim Kish was also reported for accidentally sending a holiday greeting to friends and family. The mass text was also sent to a recruit.
The Oklahoman has a full list of Oklahoma’s secondary violations that were self-reported by Oklahoma to the NCAA, along with how the violations were punished. Most included simply prohibiting assistants from initiating phone calls or texts during recruiting periods.
Many of these violations are firly common around college football, and the NCAA certainly is not going to drop a hammer on the Sooners for these offenses.